Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Divine Child

I remember once complaining to my therapist that all the men in my life were puers, you know, the Peter Pan type that never wants to grow up, never wants to commit.  It was so funny.  Jessica just looked at me a little sorry and said, "Well You know, Diana, you're a little bit like that too."  I was shocked!  Wasn't I a responsible mother? hadn't I held down a difficult job? wasn't I the committed one?

Jessica pointed to my book, The Red Coat, which was the subject of many a session and still unfinished, and she said, "Being grown up is about making choices.  So is writing." 

I eventually graduated from therapy, but I have yet to finish the book.  Completing it will be a milestone for me, probably the hardest thing I'll have ever done.  Jessica said I succeeded because I was one of those clients that did all the homework, including the suggested reading.  She assigned me a book called "The Problem of the Puer Aeternus" by Jungian analyst Marie-Louise Von Franz and it changed my life.

I learned that resistance to the adult world (e.g., giving up one's infantile fantasies, committing to a plan, overcoming impatience, buckling down) is a common problem for creative people.  It is the dark side of the personality that otherwise possesses a tremendous capacity for play, for honesty, for spontaneity, for letting go and having fun. 

The problem, for the creative person, then, is how to pull yourself out of the fantasy life of the child without losing its value?  How to grow up without losing those feelings of totality and creativeness and being fully alive that propelled you in your youth?  According to Von Franz, the cure is the same for men or women: work. 

"The work which is the cure for the puer aeternus is where he has to kick himself out of bed on a dreary morning and again and again take up the boring job -- through sheer will power."

For me, it was an agony to have to work at the level of words, as absurd as that is but true.  After all, I was writing a book, right?  But for years, I resisted.  I imagined myself at the bottom of the ocean, stuck in sludge, enraged that even were I to kill myself down there I wouldn't get back up.  I could stay down in that hell forever, I realized, unless I learned.  Sooner or later, I'd have to write.  Even if it felt like senseless, useless writing, even if I'd have to throw all of it out, it would have to be done, letter by letter, word by word, until characters were created, actions and whole scenes. And I'd probably have to make them up.  Every one of them.  From nothing.

For my picture, I tried to imagine the single thing that saved me.  Where did I find the will?  At first I thought it was faith, but then I realized it was an actual force inside me.  It was my divine child, that irrepressible little wild one inside me.  The divine spark. 

What does your divine child look like?


Linda said...

Wow again! where to begin?

first - the pic of your boy really does look like your divine child, the "wild one" who is often laughing, who knows how to have fun...

the therapist story is classic - kudos to you for embracing what she said and going even deeper with it. I can use some introspection along those lines myself. Framing it in that context of the "puer aeternus" is very helpful.

all told this is yet another gorgeous piece of writing that will linger with me throughout my day. I realize you HAVE to do it for you, but the benefits spill over onto others too, don't you know.

what does MY divine child look like? a Tomboy...who's into fashion... and likes to hang out equally in cities and in Nature... with good friends. Oh, she's also really into gift giving...

xox L

CB said...

I just found your blog....
I remember you with fondness and a bit of regret that I didn't know you better. Now, I have your writing. Thank you. Carolyn Brown